Trapped in Tragedies: Childhood Trauma, Spatial Inequality and Law

Rutgers Law School – Newark Working Paper Series, Research Papers Series Paper No: 154

71 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2017  

David Troutt

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School

Date Written: April 6, 2017

Abstract

Each year, psychological trauma arising from community and domestic violence, abuse and neglect brings profound psychological, physiological and academic harm to millions of American children, disproportionately poor children of color. This Article represents the first comprehensive legal analysis of the causes of and remedies for a crisis that can have lifelong and epigenetic consequences. Using civil rights and local government law, it argues that children’s reactions to complex trauma represent the natural symptomatology of severe structural inequality — legally sanctioned environments of isolated, segregated poverty. The sources of psychological trauma may be largely environmental, but the traumatic environments themselves are caused by spatial inequality. The Article sets forth a theory of structural inequality that demonstrates the importance of place-based differences in institutional functioning and the role of such disparities in producing the neurobiological, psychological and behavioral outcomes comprehensively described in the literature from those disciplines (including the results of an original study of Newark, NJ school children). This alternative legal analysis of child trauma compels a different remedial approach to both intervention and prevention. It argues that interventions like special education reform are necessary but problematic because they risk pathologizing the African-American poor and exhausting institutional capacity. Instead, it provides a framework for prevention focused upon increased mobility and reformed local institutions.

Keywords: local government law, civil rights, disability, special education, neurobiology, social pathology, poverty

Suggested Citation

Troutt, David, Trapped in Tragedies: Childhood Trauma, Spatial Inequality and Law (April 6, 2017). Rutgers Law School – Newark Working Paper Series, Research Papers Series Paper No: 154. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2948001 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2948001

David Troutt (Contact Author)

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School ( email )

NJ
United States

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